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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » March 5, 2008
The Real Estate Voice
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Investor-Friendly Communes
March 5, 2008 By Michal Jeziorski   
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Political stability is indispensable to business. Local administration therefore needs to be stable and consistent. Rural district administrators and city mayors need to be managers who can plan strategically for the future.

The stability of state organs at the national level has varied. Thankfully, national politics is not the whole story. Many Polish cities and communes enjoy stable local government where peace and harmony prevail and investment money keeps on flowing in.

A good local administrator is first and foremost a host who considers the job a public service. Openness is the key to good communication between authorities, residents and investors. There is no such thing as less important issues in a commune; each and every issue deserves time and attention. The effectiveness of local administrators also depends to a large extent on their ability to build competent teams that can carry out tasks responsibly and effectively. Local authorities take on the responsibility for their communities' futures and should avoid limiting themselves to current affairs. Making their communes more attractive to business may win them a ompetitive edge over other locations. Local firms are doomed to failure as is any attempt to encourage outside investors unless there is careful local planning and a clear vision for development.

Mszczonów, 40 km south-west of Warsaw, and its mayor Józef Grzegorz Kurek have come out ahead on every criterion. Mszczonów, known as the "tiger of Mazovia," is Poland's most rapidly developing town. Kurek, who has served as mayor for 18 years, is an invaluable catalyst for change, so much so that the present population of 7,000 is predicted to grow to around 30,000 in several years.

Mszczonów has Poland's lowest unemployment with nearly 2,000 jobs created there over the past 10 years. Foreign companies have invested around $1 billion in recent years. A major logistics center has been completed and investors are hopeful that a central airport will soon follow. The town authorities believe that Mszczonów is the ideal location for an airport and are strongly promoting the idea.

Mszczonów lies at the junction of major road and rail links. A beltway to divert transit traffic outside the town limits is currently under construction. This will open up new areas on the town's outskirts for industrial development.

Mszczonów has a duty-free zone and a customs office. It was the third town in Poland to use geothermal waters for heating and the second in Europe to use them for consumption. Mszczonów Thermal Springs is due to open June 28. This will help every firm and institution involved in tourism, culture, leisure, gastronomy and accommodation in addition to offering entertainment and promoting the town. Kurek says that the springs should help town and regional businesses. Mszczonów's sister town is Erding in Bavaria, the only other European town to exploit fresh geothermal waters.

Maria Jolanta Batycka-Wąsik has been serving as governor of the Lesznowola rural commune since 1998. Lesznowola borders Warsaw to the east and its rapid development can be put down to its proximity to the capital, convenient transportation connections, attractive investment and recreational sites, and favorable conditions for residential construction. The commune has more than 3,500 registered businesses, many of which form a production and service center that funnels domestic and foreign capital into modern industry. The commune's potential is demonstrated by the number of Polish and foreign companies which have set up their registered offices there. Lesznowola is best known for residential construction, hotels, services industries, education, transport, tourism and recreation, as well as farm produce and food processing.

Lesznowola is one of few Polish communes to have the majority of their area (98 percent) covered by a local development plan. The town has won the nationwide Environmentally Friendly competition and presently ranks fifth in terms of standard of living in the Communities rankings.

Janusz Żmurkiewicz is serving his second consecutive term as mayor of the north-western city of Świnoujście, one of Poland's most attractive coastal cities and another prime investment location. As one of Poland's four major ports, it is an important maritime center and has a large naval base. As a beautiful coastal city that straddles dozens of islands, it is a popular health resort and tourist destination. Sea ferries regularly carry passengers, vehicles and rail cars to and from Świnoujście and Sweden and Denmark. The Świnoujście ferry terminal is an important link between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

Kazimiera Tarkowska is the longtime administrator of Kleszczów, a commune south of Łódź that also comes highly recommended. Kleszczów is the fastest growing commune in the region and home to the BOT Kopalnia Węgla Brunatnego Bełchatów lignite mine and the BOT Elektrownia Bełchatów power plant. But that is not the end of the Kleszczów story. The local authorities have created favorable conditions for business, education and leisure and they have prime land available for residential construction.

Franciszek Październik has been involved in local government for 27 years and is now serving his second consecutive term as mayor of Oława, a city near Wrocław in the same region as the Jelcz-Laskowice Special Economic Zone. Oława has established itself as an important regional economic, social and cultural center.

Some of Poland's larger cities can also boast stable government. Ryszard Grobelny has been mayor of Poznań for 10 years and is currently serving his third consecutive term. A quarter of all businesses that commence operations in Wielkopolska region choose its capital Poznań. Poznań has 162 firms employing fewer than 10 people per 1,000 residents. Poznań had 91,400 firms, mostly individual operations, at the end of 2007, according to the Central Statistical Office (GUS). The city also had 2,600 companies with foreign capital, mostly German and Dutch. Poznań has Poland's largest growth in the number of companies according to Forbes magazine.

The same holds true in Bydgoszcz where Konstanty Dombrowicz has been mayor since 2002. Bydgoszcz is the largest economic center in Kujawy-Pomerania province and the eighth largest in Poland. Bydgoszcz ranks first among Poland's 10 cities having more than 300,000 residents in terms of growth in the number of companies. Bydgoszcz is the most rapidly developing city in the province and the Bydgoszcz Industry and Technology Park opened in 2004. Bydgoszcz has no shortage of land or highly qualified staff available.

Jerzy Kropiwnicki is currently serving his second consecutive term as mayor of Łódź. The city has managed to attract the likes of Dell, Gillette, Philips, Indesit, Sonoco and General Electric to set up shop over the last few years.

Stable local government means consistent developmental policies. The well-being of today's local communes depends on the personal attributes of their leaders and the quality of their social capital. These factors are more important than geographical location and natural resources, something to bear in mind when making investment decisions.

Michał Jeziorski
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